Originally published on Inc Magazine’s Process Playbook column by Chris Ronzio
It might have taken you months to fill the position. But if you wait one day longer to fire a bad fit, that’s one day too long.
I’ve worked with a lot of business owners, and here’s something none of them have ever said after letting someone go: “I wish I had waited longer.” Firing is tough. It’s emotional. It’s going to impact the life of the person on the other end, and maybe the lives of those that depend on them.
It can feel like an admission of failure. Maybe you’re just bad at hiring. Or, it can feel like an inconvenience that you don’t have time to deal with. Maybe they’re in the middle of a big project that you really need to finish. Maybe you don’t have time to find a replacement this week.
So, for all these reasons, we procrastinate. We wait too long.
By letting that bad hire linger, you’re hurting the company more than you know. You’re sending a message to your team that poor performance is acceptable. The vibe in the office spoils, and the affect of that hire permeates throughout your culture, making you look indifferent at best.
If you’re on the fence about keeping someone around, here are six ways to know that they’ve overstayed their welcome.
You’re uncomfortable interacting with them.
A great team member is easy to chat with. You share stories from the weekend on your way in from the parking lot, you brainstorm on a project while your k-cup is brewing, and you never hesitate to stop and say hello when you cross paths in the hallway.
When someone is a bad fit, you avoid them at all cost. It’s probably even uncomfortable to make eye contact.
You don’t want to assign anything to them.
You’d have no trouble assigning a task to a great employee. You probably wouldn’t even tell them what to do — you would just share the end result you’re looking for, and count on them to use their expertise to get the job done.
But not a bad hire. Instead of assigning anything to them, you think, “It’s easier if I just do this myself” or “I’ll show them eventually.”
I once had an assistant that I realized I was emailing less and less frequently. I’d think of something for her to do, and then just decide to do it myself. Secretly, I knew the education would be a waste of time, since she wouldn’t be around much longer.
They seem to work solo.
Your best employees know how to work together. They lean on each other for support, laugh about whatever is happening on Slack, and often go out together during lunch break.
So, when someone doesn’t seem to be fitting in, you have to wonder why. One day when our website went down, it was all hands on deck to figure out what happened and fix the issue. Well, almost all hands. When I realized who was missing, I realized they had to go.
When someone is working alone, they either don’t want anyone peeking at their work, or they aren’t fitting in well with the team. Both are bad signs of their longevity.
You think about them outside of work.
My great employees don’t give me any reason to think about them outside of work, unless maybe they comment on my Instagram post or go above and beyond on a project after-hours, in which case I think about how grateful I am for them.
So usually, if I find myself thinking about an employee while I’m driving, or while I’m running, or while I’m playing with my kids, I know there’s a problem.
They did something wince-worthy.
This one comes down to gut feeling. Great employees do unexpected things that make you think, “Wow, great idea” or “Good point, I didn’t think of that.”
Problem employees do unexpected things that make you think, “I can’t believe she just said to a client” or “does he realize how that makes us look?” When you know, you know.
And, the last easy way to know if someone is a bad fit is…
You clicked on this article.
If you’re thinking about someone while reading this article, then you’ve already made the decision. Perhaps you haven’t accepted it yet, or you don’t have someone holding you accountable to take action.
It sounds harsh, but the sign of a great organization is the ease with which you can let someone go. It means that the position is well documented and easily trainable. It means you have a clear grasp on your core values and expectations of your team. It means you are a strong and decisive leader.
So, do it already. I guarantee you won’t wish you had waited longer.